On October 19th, The Jamaica (Ottawa) Community Association (JOCA) presented its annual National Heroes Gala and Awards dinner at the Centurion Conference and Event Center. Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, H.E. Sheila Sealy-Monteith, attended the event and commended Ottawa Jamaicans for their contributions to both countries. The Keynote Speaker, Hon. Don Meredith (who happens to be the fourth black and first person of Jamaican heritage appointed to the Canadian Senate), delivered a passionate speech reflecting the theme “Celebrating Jamaica: Triumphant, Proud and Free.” Awards were presented to the following persons by JOCA for their professional achievements and valuable contributions to the Ottawa community : Ms. Suzan Lavertu (founder & artistic director of the Cultural Arts Studio of Afro-Caribbean Dance) and long-time community advocate Des Doran. Ewart Walters, founder and editor-in-chief of the recently folded Spectrum newspaper, received a special award from the Jamaican High Commission for his impressive journalistic and civil service careers. Former JOCA president Chris Harris – a nationally recognized minority rights advocate – received a surprise United Way Ottawa Community Builder Award for 60 years of volunteer service.
Celebrated on the Third Monday in October, National Heroes’ Day in Jamaica is a holiday in tribute to seven key figures in the island’s history (Sir Alexander Bustamante,  Norman Washington Manley, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sam Sharp, Nanny of The Maroons) who fought for freedom against the tyranny of slavery, for universal adult suffrage and for the birth of an independent nation.
For more info about the Jamaican Ottawa Community Association and its upcoming activities, visit:http://jamaicanottawaassn.org/
-submitted by Sarah Onyango